Thursday, October 25, 2012

HMANA's Counting for the Future Conferece - A Success!

On October 13 and 14th, some of HMANA’s biggest raptor enthusiasts gathered at Audubon Greenwich in Connecticut for two days of raptor presentations, field trips, and all around great discussions on hawk watching and raptor research .

Personally, as HMANA’s Monitoring Site Coordinator, I spend a lot of time emailing and talking with site leaders and hawk watchers throughout the year, but this is one of few opportunities each year to actually interact face-to-face with many site representatives and HMANA supporters. The Conference in Greenwich offered just that for others, too – a reunion, of sorts, a chance to catch up with friends old and new. Attendees included everyone from first-time conference goers to those who wouldn’t dream of missing one.

There was something for everyone! We had a really nice array of presenters – covering current research and education efforts around New England and across the map. To name a few, we learned about golden eagle tracking and the potential risk from wind power development, osprey telemetry efforts and exciting new data on their migration, navigation, and mortality. We heard about current kestrel nestbox programs in CT, saw-whet banding in MA and Red-tailed Hawk Natal Dispersal in NY.

Education was a major theme of the conference and we were lucky to have so many inspiring educators speak about their programs and how they engage all age groups with raptors – in both the classroom and the field.  We heard about using raptor banding as a way to connect with special education students, the use of nest cams in society and how to transform people into supporters, repeat visitors, and eventually informed constituents and conservationists.  The education panel discussion covered lots of issues including best ways to connect people to nature.
During the regional hawk watch session we had an opportunity to hear about eight New England sites across the Northeast. Site Coordinators discussed everything from staffing and fundraising to raptor migration trends. It was valuable to see how sites are both so different and so alike, and to learn about what works well and what doesn’t.

Field trip destinations included such famous locations as Lighthouse Point Hawk Watch, one of the falcon capitals of the Northeast, and the Chestnut Ridge Hawk Watch in nearby New York. Throughout the weekend, people popped out during conference breaks to visit the Quaker Ridge Hawk Watch a few steps outside the Audubon Center for some hawk watching. Among the observations for the weekend were plenty of Accipiters, high streaming Buteos on the move, and two Golden Eagles.  Snow Geese and a possible Ross’s Goose were highlights for some observers, and songbirds were spilling south in loose flocks throughout the weekend.

A personal highlight and undoubtedly one for many attendees was keynote speaker, Pete Dunne. Always a treat to hear, Pete took us on a trip down memory lane, sharing stories from his 36 years of hawk watching, as well as some interesting insight about the future of hawk watching – the theme of this very conference.

If that wasn’t enough, we also had a great array of table displays from local organizations and booksellers, live birds from the local rehabilitation center and a chance to try out some binocs and scopes from Swarovski, a sponsor of the conference.

Thank you to everyone who took part in our Counting for the Future conference; presenters, planners, volunteers and attendees. Folks at Audubon Greenwich did a fantastic job hosting the conference; from handling the technical computer setup to food prep. They kept everything running smoothly all weekend long.  I left the conference feeling inspired and refreshed about the work HMANA continues to do thanks to its many dedicated members and contributors. The future of hawk watching is bright, indeed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Season Record for Peregrine Falcons set at Florida Keys Hawkwatch

Congratulations to Florida Keys Hawkwatch –the new Peregrine Falcon “capital of the world.” On October 16 at 14:49 Peregrine #3220 was tallied for fall 2012, breaking the previous seasonal record of 3219 set in Kekoldi, Costa Rica, in 2004.

By the end of the day, the new season total at Florida Keys stood at 3242. And yesterday (October 17) the site on Little Crawl Key added 27 more Peregrines, so their current total stands at 3269, at least until today is over.

Along the way to this historic number, the site also broke its own previous high daily count for Peregrines, tallying 651 Peregrines on October 10. The previous daily record was 638 set on October 11, 2008 at the site, which was then named Curry Hammock.

Along the way to both the season high and the high daily could total were several multi-triple digit Peregrine counts, starting with 113 on October 5, and followed by 237 on October 6, 155 on October 7, 230 on October 8 and 318 on October 9.

The count at Florida Keys runs until November 13, so the new high seasonal number for Peregrines will only continue to grow. Congratulations to everyone at the site!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hazel Rocks and Wedding Bells Ring!

Those who keep up with the fall migration reports from the various "hotspots" around the continent might recognize the familiar sign-off phrase from the Corpus Christi watch:  "Hazel Rocks!"  Dane Ferrell and Libby Even have been the count leaders at Hazel Bazemore (Corpus Christi Migration Project) for several years now.  With soaring spirits and hearts they have counted several hundreds of thousands of hawks passing the site.  And Hazel (the affectionate nickname for the site) indeed rocks during fall migration.  So far this season over 225,000 individual hawks of 23 raptor species have been counted there.  The highest numbers by far are provided by the huge kettles and streams of Broad-winged Hawks heading toward their wintering grounds in Central and South America.  Dane's and Libby's clickers kick into overdrive as they concentrate on the counts.
Broadwings streaming from a kettle over Hazel Bazemore County Park

Along with small kettles and streams of Mississippi Kites and smaller numbers of Swallow-tailed Kites, Hazel's skies also yield some great views of south Texas "specialties," such as White-tailed Hawks, Harris' Hawks, Crested Caracaras, along with the occasional but regular Zone-tailed and less-regular Short-tailed Hawks. The second half of Hazel's season sees increased numbers of Swainson's Hawks.  Check for more information on the counts from Corpus Christi.

It was on the watch platform (worthy of another essay another time!) that Dane and Libby brought the migration day to a close on the twenty-second of September this year.  Earlier in 2012 an email had announced "Save the date!"  Friends of the couple from as far away as England and the west coast, convinced that Dane was a confirmed bachelor, rejoiced at the happy news.  So on September 22, surrounded by family members and their many hawkwatching friends, Libby and Dane were married.  As the ceremony began, the last of the day's migrant Broad-wings settled into the trees for a night's rest.

In a magical moment acknowledging the miracle of migration and their own soaring hearts and spirits the couple released over a dozen monarch butterflies into the air. Some immediately flew skyward while others came to rest on the bride's bouquet where they remained as the newlyweds left the platform.  Best wishes, Libby and Dane.  Hazel rocks!